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Lankford Works to Decrease Costs of Prescription Drugs for Senior Adults

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on YouTube.

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on Rumble.

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in a Senate Finance Committee open Executive Session to consider the Better Mental Health Care, Lower-Cost Drugs, and Extenders Act, which seeks to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for senior adults on Medicare among many other policy objectives.

Lankford mentioned his support for a number of provisions in the bill, and he offered as an amendment a tailored version of his Ensuring Access to Lower-Cost Medicines for Seniors Act in partnership with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a senior member on the Senate Finance Committee. The amendment would address the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) practice of placing lower cost drugs on the same price “tier” or a less preferred “tier” than their name-brand counterpart, which keeps costs high for senior adult patients at the counter by blocking their access to these lower-cost products.

Earlier this year, Lankford and Menendez introduced the Ensuring Access to Lower-Cost Medicines for Seniors Act to ensure that patients can finally benefit from lower-cost products instead of being forced to pay for higher-priced drugs solely because of pricing gimmicks used by PBMs, the drug pricing middlemen. This legislation would clearly establish pricing “tiers” to separate lower-cost biosimilar products from name-brand drugs so that patients pay less out of pocket for truly lower-priced drugs, therefore incentivizing prices to drop in order to get into the hands of patients.

“Under the current structure, Medicare Part D plans and PBMs often advantage higher-cost branded drugs—and charge beneficiaries based on inflated list prices, even when a biosimilar drug is on the market at a significant discount. That is, if the drug is even covered by insurance at all. Currently, many contracts explicitly block coverage for the most affordable biosimilars. That’s not right,” said Menendez. “My amendment in partnership with Senator Lankford will ensure seniors can finally benefit from lower-cost biosimilars instead of being forced to pay for higher-priced drugs solely because of pricing tactics used by the drug pricing middlemen. I also appreciate the Chair and Ranking Member’s commitment to including these provisions in the PBM package the Committee moves to the floor.”

The Better Mental Health Care, Lower-Cost Drugs, and Extenders Act included several provisions of Lankford’s, including protections for rural community independent pharmacies taken from his Protect Patient Access to Pharmacies Act. The package also contained the extension of many expiring programs, continued protection for physicians and safety-net hospitals from impending cuts, and policies to increase access to mental health services.

Excerpt

Lankford: Based on the evidence that we have seen going through this from the HHS OIG and from others that have examined this, I expect this policy to actually come back and save the government money because it drives down patient costs, and it continues to drive down net prices as the branded price has to compete with the lower-cost biosimilar. Simply stated, this would allow for when a new biosimilar comes on board, if its net price is significantly cheaper—and we’re basing that off what’s called the wholesale acquisition cost—it allows that to actually be on the formulary so we’re actually increasing the competition, rather than biosimilars being forced out to the benefit of branded higher-price drugs that we actually increase competition. It’s the basic principle of: we want more competition, not less. We want more options for seniors, not less on this.  

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